Banh Mi Spring Rolls

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The weather here’s been just beautiful this week and I think it’s finally safe to say that we’ve left winter behind us–though you never really can tell in Michigan. You just take things as they come day by day and pray that the weather report for tomorrow is actually going to be semi-accurate. This week’s forecast was for sunny skies and mid-to upper 70’s.

And guess what? That’s EXACTLY what we’ve been getting. Which, makes me happy. I’m already excited for Memorial Day when my older sister (who’s good at barbecuing/grilling) can fire up our charcoal grill with the meat and I (who am NOT good at grilling whatsoever) can make everything else. Heh.

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Today’s recipe really complements the summer weather, as it’s one where you’re not going to need to crank up the oven and make your house/apartment anymore stuffy than it may be already if you’re trying to wait as long as possible to turn on the A/C (like us lol) Additionally, if you’ve got a grocery store in your area that makes good rotisserie chickens, then over half the work’s already done for you.

I was a Banh Mi late bloomer. Up until a couple years ago, I wasn’t even 100% sure of how to pronounce it correctly. (It’s okay if you still don’t either and go from here to Google to find out; that’s how I learned too.)Typically, it’s a Vietnamese sandwich consisting of a crusty baguette style bread that’s split in half and layered with marinated grilled pork or chicken, fresh herbs, and pickled carrots and radishes. I’ve seen versions that also involve pate spreads and spicy chili sauces, but at its core, the above is a good place to start for a Banh Mi virgin.

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Banh Mi sandwiches, if you’ve got a place that can REALLY do them well, are bound to become a quick favorite. Seriously, they’re just really hard NOT to like. There’s a Vietnamese/Creole (yeah, I know. Peculiar combination)  restaurant just down the road from where I live that makes them and also made the meal that served as my official induction into the club of Banh Mi sandwich appreciation. There’s also another dish that they make that I simply MUST get each and every time I go there: the spring rolls.

Up until this place opened, I had also never had a Spring Roll that wasn’t made of the standard egg wrappers and fried in oil. I’d certainly see and heard of the translucent rice paper wrappers, but never tried them before and of course–never prepared a dish with them.

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Like the Banh Mi sandwich, from that first taste I got of a rice paper spring roll,  I was just hooked. First of all, the restaurant’s seasoning of the pork inside was sublime, and the even though they crammed it full of both meat, veggies and herbs I still walked away from the meal without feeling ‘too full’. There was just a wonderfully refreshing ‘lightness’ to those rice paper spring rolls that’s really made me never want to go back to the old fried way I used to eat them.

Although, don’t get  it twisted: I still have MAD love for a deep fried egg roll. That, I’m never changing my mind and/or taste buds about.

What’s so great about today’s recipe is that it combines both of the dishes from the Vietnamese restaurant near me and makes it into a dish that gives me the best of both worlds; the core elements of the Banh Mi sandwich are rolled altogether in the spring roll rice paper to make a super delicious appetizer, snack, side dish or even meal if you’re game for eating several of these bad boys. I know I am.

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This was my first time quick-pickling veggies and using rice paper wrappers and I was pleased to find out it wasn’t that big a deal. Once you’ve rolled your share of egg rolls (and I have) then using the wet rice paper isn’t that big of a challenge. Just as few minor tips:

Make sure your cucumbers are sliced VERY thin, or they may tear or poke holes through the wet rice paper. Be sure to roll you ingredients up nice and tight. Place the finished rolls seam side down once you’re finished to help them “seal” better while you make the rest. AND most important: keep the leftovers wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the rice paper rolls moist. They have a tendency to get a little chewy and tough when left exposed to the air for too long, even if you keep them in plastic containers.

These are super yummy, guys. The pickled carrot and radish provides a tangy acidity that isn’t overpowering when tempered with the savory chicken that’s been juuuuuuust slightly sweetened from being mixed with the Chinese five-spice powder. Depending on the herb(s) you decide to use you’re going to have a different flavor profile but because I prefer it’s mild sweetness I went with the fresh mint leaves that paired very well with the cucumber. This is PERFECT summer food, plain and simple.

I’ll be bringing my spring rolls to this week’s Fiesta Friday #120, co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Linda @ Fabulous Fare Sisters. Thanks ladies.

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Banh Mi Spring Rolls

Recipe Adapted from Chow.com

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Ingredients

For Pickled Veggies:

  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (3-ounce) carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 (3-ounce) daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks

For Spring Rolls

  • 8 to 10 rice paper wrappers
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/2 English cucumber, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (small leaves)

Directions

To Make Pickled Veggies:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the carrot and daikon and let cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until ready to stuff into rolls.

To Assemble Spring Rolls:

Fill a round cake pan with warm water. Place 1 rice paper round into the water, turning it gently with your fingertips until softened. Carefully remove the sheet from the water and lay it flat on a plate.

Toss the chicken with the five-spice powder. Arrange some of the seasoned chicken in a horizontal line on the wrapper, positioning it about 1 inch or so from the edge nearest you and about 1⁄2 inch from each side.

Top with some of the drained pickled veggies, cucumber, and a sprinkle of mint leaves.

Lift the edge of the rice paper nearest you and place it over the filling, then roll once to form a tight cylinder. Fold in the sides of the rice paper and continue to roll to form a tight cylinder (be careful not to rip the rice paper).

Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling. Cut each roll in half crosswise at a diagonal and serve with the dipping sauce, if you like. To store, wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Sho Nuff Noodles

Sho Nuff Noodles1

Am I the meanest? Sho’nuff! 

Am I the prettiest?  Sho’nuff!

Am I the baddest mofo low down around this town? Sho’nuff!

Well who am I? Sho’nuff!

Who am I? Sho’nuff!

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Oh, hi guys. Don’t worry, I’m not crazy or full of myself. The above is a movie quote. I decided to open up this post with the direct inspiration/reference for this recipe. Kudos/gold stars/props to anybody out there that knows it on their own. You and I would probably be best buddies if we knew each other outside of the blogosphere.

In 1985, record label executive and legend Berry Gordy and the folks at Motown produced a martial arts/musical movie called “The Last Dragon”. Although it wasn’t exactly a critical success at the time of it being made, it is now considered to be a cult classic of Black cinema. And rightly so; it’s one of my favorite films,especially when you’re watching with a crowd of friends who can quote the movie with you.

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As it turns out, the film is also well-loved by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Marcus Samuelsson. I follow him on Pinterest/Twitter and one day I saw a recipe pop up in my feed. It wasn’t just the picture that caught my attention, although that was mouth-watering enough to draw me in. It was also the name that he gave the dish that made me immediately want to look into what I would need to make it. Any “Last Dragon” fan worth their salt knows the name of the antagonist of the plot: Sho Nuff.  He’s the kung-fu neighborhood bully who is constantly challenging the protagonist, Leroy Green to a winner-take-all fight. He also travels around with an entourage of people, where he constantly makes them say his name like some kind of a pep rally cheer- hence, the quote.

Once I saw the dish, I knew I had to try it out just to see how Chef Marcus would translate the bold and bodacious personality of the character, into food. It’s not the first dish of his that I’ve tried to interpret and like all the others, this one did not disappoint either.

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I will admit however, the one “draw-back” to this recipe is that in order to make it, you will probably need to purchase the majority of the sauce ingredients from an Asian market. If you don’t have one of those, then online ordering is gonna have to be the way to go. To be honest, I’d never heard of some of them before seeing this ingredient list– but I will say that when combined all together, they make a sauce that is friggin DELICIOUS.

So yes, it is worth it.

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Another awesome thing about this recipe is that it’s versatile enough for those who are watching their carb-intake to still be able to enjoy it. So to adapt this recipe with my own personal spin, I took the liberty of making this dish with both regular lo mein noodles AND Shiritaki noodles. Both turned out fabulously and I’ve included the preparation directions for both in the recie. Also, because I’m also a carnivore you guys know I had to throw some meat in there for the added protein to make this more of a filling meal and less as an appetizer. Also, I threw in some sesame seeds because…why not?

Should you go the extra mile and make this dish? Sho Nuff.

Happy Fiesta Friday #119 and thanks to our co-hosts  Ahila @ A Taste of Sri Lankan Cuisine and Diann @ Of Goats and Greens.

Sho Nuff Noodles

Recipe Adapted from Marcus Samuelsson

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp black bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp kecap manis
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp yuzu kosho
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1⁄4 tsp ground caraway seeds
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 oz shredded cabbage
  • 1 baby bok choy, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 bunch scallions, 3⁄4 cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 oz cooked lo mein noodles (OR 8 oz. Shiritaki noodles, drained; see directions below on how to prepare for this recipe)
  • 1-1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced (or any other protein you prefer)
  • sesame seeds, optional

Directions

Mix black bean sauce, kecap manis, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, rice vinegar, yuzu, ginger, and caraway in a bowl; set sauce aside.

Heat oil in a 12” wok or nonstick skillet over high; add cabbage, bok choy, and 2” scallions and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.

Add noodles and chicken cook one minute more. Add reserved sauce cook 2 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

*If you’re using Shiritaki noodles: place noodles in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for about 65-70 seconds. The noodles will be ready when the scent of the fluid they’re  packaged in is gone. If it’s still there after the first minute, you can heat them for another 60 seconds, which should get the smell out. Use a knife to roughly chop until they’re loose and untangled. From here, they can be prepared in the same way as regular lo mein noodles for this recipe.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

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You guys know when you go to a Chinese take-out joint, they’ll serve some dishes with creative names? I’ve always really liked that.

I’m looking at a menu from one of the nearby places here where we’ve gone for years at a list of items that they given those ‘special names’. The funny thing about it is that they don’t really describe what the food is; it’s as if they just expect you to know what it is beforehand. I don’t, but I can always speculate:

1) “Eight Parts Delicious”- I’ve never tried this one before. I’ve always been too scared. Why ‘eight parts’? Why not five, or six, or four? Does eight parts mean eight different spices? Eight different vegetables? Eight different meats? (Wait, that’s really probably not it, I can’t even think of eight meats right now).

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2) “Happy Family”- I’m assuming this is just a big assortment of meats and veggies stir-fried together to make one big “happy family” of a dish. It better be for what they’re charging for it. Sheesh.

3) “Phoenix and Dragon”- well, let me see. I couldn’t swear to what the protein in this would be, but I’m going to make a wild guess that whatever it is, it’s pretty spicy. The ‘phoenix’ part can obviously pass for chicken, but what’s the term used for reptiles? Do people even eat reptiles?

4) “Four Seasons”- This one I’m almost positive had four proteins in it. I mean it’s almost too easy: chicken, beef, pork, fish. The REAL question is which protein stands for which season. I’ll think about it and get back to you guys on that one.

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I got one of my mad, notorious cravings for some Asian stir-fry and rather than just pick up the phone and order in, I remembered that I’m a freakin food blogger and went into the kitchen to fire up my wok instead. That’s pretty impressive for me guys, so you should be giving me a pat on the back.

There really was no rhyme or reason for the ingredients I picked out when planning this recipe. I just used what I knew would be easy, and pretty accessible for most people to get. My protein of choice was chicken (which is par for the course for me), but if you’re more partial to using beef or pork, then feel free to swap it out.

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I was really very happy with how this dish turned out. There’s the perfect ratio of meat to the veggies, the sauce (although literally thrown together at the last minute) turned out really good, and what’s more the dish can feed a pretty good sized crowd. The only problem I could find with it was when I finished cooking and taking pictures and needed to come up with a good name for it to post on the blog.

See, I really, really REALLY wanted to give it one of those ‘creative’ names I’ve seen in Chinese take-out menus. Don’t ask why, I just wanted to.

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My ‘other’ hobby is writing, so at first I tried to get REALLY out there with this. My first idea was “Buddha’s Delight”, but I seemed to remember hearing of that somewhere else, so I binned it.  Then I thought maybe “Year of the Snake” would be kinda cool since according to the Chinese Calendar, that’s my animal/sign. But I just couldn’t marry the idea of a snake with a dish where the protein is chicken so that was out too. After looking at the pictures from the photo shoot the name “Rainbow Stir-Fry” occurred to me to illustrate all the pretty veggie colors. Then I said it out loud and realized that it sounded stupid.

As you guys can see, the winner didn’t turn out to be all that impressive or creative. My wok stayed pretty hot while I was cooking the dish, and the stir-fry part would also make it pretty obvious what it was to avoid any confusion.

So there you have it: Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry. I can promise you that it MORE than makes up for in taste what it lacks in name originality.

I’ll be bringing this over to the Fiesta Friday #56  party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmandeand Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

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Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips
  • 3 tri-color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets
  • 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite stir-fry seasoning
  • Asian stir fry oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Dried Chow Mein Noodles, optional
  • Egg or vermicelli rice noodles, optional

Directions

1. Heat 1-2 tsp. of Asian stir-fry oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers and carrots and sautee until softened and slightly limp, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add another 1-2 tsp. of stir-fry oil to pan and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place with peppers and carrots.

3. Season chicken with stir-fry seasoning in a large bowl, stirring to make sure meat is evenly covered. Add additional stir-fry oil to pan and allow to heat. Add chicken to the pan (you may have to do this in multiple batches, don’t crowd it) and sautee until completely cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar/honey, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a measuring cup.

5. When all of the chicken is finished cooking, add the peppers, carrots and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Turn heat up to high. Drizzle the sauce into the mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you may not need to use it all depending on how you like your stir-fry seasoned, so taste and adjust accordingly) Continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. During the last minute or so of stir-frying add the broccoli to the pan.

6. When stir-fry is completed, sprinkle chow mein noodles on top and serve atop egg noodles or vermicelli rice noodles if desired. 

Sambal Chicken Skewers

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So, I have a confession to make.

I’m a really bad griller. It’s true. If you ask me to grill you something, I am probably, most likely, almost definitely going to mess it up.

I’m sure that the whole thing is probably easy enough to do if you’ve got a gas grill, but we only have a charcoal grill at my house and for the life of me, I cannot keep that thing hot enough to cook the food. Don’t get me started on using smokers and special types of wood and all those other fancy doohickies (did I spell that right? I don’t think I did.)

I remember one Memorial Day a couple of years back where I tried to help my Mom grill. When we couldn’t keep the coals hot enough, we finally got the idea in our heads that we needed something to feed the flames since the coals obviously weren’t cutting it.

Don’t ask why, but for some reason, we decided to go with old newspaper.

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Well, it got the coals hot enough, for sure. It all just started going south AFTER we put the meat on the grill…and the newspaper started flaking and flying up all over the place, sticking to the food.

Good times, Good times.

Long story short, we ended up rinsing off the meat and just finishing it all in the oven and slow cooker that day. But it still served to teach me a very valuable lesson: I’m NOT a griller. At least not now. Maybe one day I’ll just sit down and force myself to learn. I could also just find a guy to date who knows how to do it and just leave all that grilling business to him. Either one would work.

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I say all of this because it’s very frustrating for me when I see or find a recipe that I would reeeeeeeeeally like to try, but it’s supposed to be grilled. My culinary shoulders give a little slump every time I see that and I just think,

“What? It’s supposed to be grilled? But…but…I don’t know how to grill. I suck at grilling. How am I supposed to do make this if it’s supposed to be grilled? No fair!”

Most of the time, I just end up putting said recipes aside for the day that I do end up learning to grill. But not this time. This time, I just couldn’t put it aside. I wanted to make this recipe, darn it. And I didn’t want to let grilling get in the way of me and my food.

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Bon Appetit is such a dangerous website for me. I can browse it for 5 minutes, and suddenly I want to cook absolutely everything I see there. That’s what happened with this recipe. I saw it, and I just knew, people. I knew I had to make this, come hell or high water.

I may not know how to operate my charcoal grill…but my oven? She and I are on very good terms with each other.

I made this recipe work for me, people. And really, I’m so glad I did. Because grill or no grill, it’s really so friggin delicious. The marinade is what really makes the flavors pop. The rice wine vinegar gives a slight tang and acidity to the chicken that is somehow tempered by both the saltiness of the fish sauce and the sweetness of the ginger and brown sugar. The hot chili paste doesn’t bring as much heat as you would think it would- I would describe it more as more of a smoky flavor. The Sriracha is where the heat comes in, sneaking up on you in the back of your throat even after you’ve swallowed the chicken. I’ve eaten a lot of chicken breasts and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to inject them with much flavor. But this really does do the job.

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I did make some modifications to this recipe for my own purposes: first, I obviously baked them in the oven rather than grilling them. But the original does call for them to be grilled, I can see how they would taste even better if they were. So if you’re good at grilling, then by all means, go for it. Second, rather than just putting the marinade on the meat the same day as cooking, I did let them it sit overnight in the fridge, just to make sure all the flavors would fully permeate. However, if you’re in a hurry this isn’t necessarily mandatory. Third, the original recipe called for you to take the used marinate, bring it to a boil over the stove, then brush it over the finished chicken.

Yeah…I just couldn’t bring myself to do that. I know that boiling the marinade is ‘supposed’ to take the bacteria out of it. But my paranoia and just the idea of eating something that raw, uncooked chicken sat in made me feel queasy. I just re-made the whole marinade and warmed it up over the stove. That way I don’t have to worry that I’ve poisoned myself and my family.

So, Grill. We managed to avoid each other once more. Perhaps we shall meet one day- but that day is not today.

Guys, I give you…Sambal Chicken.

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Sambal Chicken Skewers

Recipe Adapted from BonAppetit.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1/4 cup Sriracha
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • 8 bamboo skewers soaked in water at least 1 hour

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

3. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and place a wire rack over it. Spray rack with non-stick cooking spray. Lay chicken skewers on rack and bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until chicken reaches inner temperature of  165 degrees.

4. While chicken is baking,make a second batch of the marinade and warm in a saucepan over the stove.

5. Brush sauce over finished chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Yangzhou Fried Rice

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So, I have this soft spot.

It’s pretty frequent that whenever I’m in a shopping center or a private small business or restaurant and I see that the workers/owners aren’t getting much business, I feel really bad and sympathetic towards them. Yes, even if they’re those people that set up the stands in the mall and try to accost you while you’re walking just to test/buy their product. I know that the retail/food industry business is cutthroat and very competitive. I know that it’s not my fault if they have slow business. I know that I’m not obligated to buy anything- and to be honest, I usually don’t. But it doesn’t keep me from empathizing with them either. They have to make a living like everyone else, and their ability to do so or not depends on whether or not they can convince complete strangers to open their wallets. It’s a real sticky, precarious situation when you think about it.

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Why am I even talking about this? Well, when I was putting together this dish and this post, it made me think of this Asian restaurant that used to be in the food court of the local mall when I was still in grade school, years ago. I won’t say the name of the place, but it was independently owned by this couple that looked like they were in their mid-to upper 50’s. Every time I went to the mall, it just never seemed like anyone was buying anything from this place. The man and his wife would come in and out of the kitchen in the back, filling and emptying the dishes they had available, all the while looking at the passing shoppers as if wishing just a few of them to stop and buy something- anything- from their restaurant. If I can be completely honest, I’ll just go ahead and admit that there was a good reason that this place didn’t get much business. All of the ‘standard fare’ that you’d see in an American Chinese restaurant was on their menu, but the sad reality was that it wasn’t really well seasoned. Like, at all. Their recipes needed serious work.

I can still remember how sorry I felt for them, even as a little girl. And I wished I could’ve been able to tell that I really felt like they would’ve gotten more business if they changed up how they made their fried rice.

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It’s just my personal opinion, but I do think that a good Chinese restaurant starts with how they make their fried rice. In my experience, if they make excellent fried rice, then chances are the rest of the menu is pretty spot on too. Because let me just say up front one thing that I’ve learned: all fried rice is NOT created equal. I’ve had some really good fried rice over the years, and then I’ve had some that was frankly, pretty terrible. It wasn’t until I decided to make some for myself that I realized how easy it is for fried rice to go wrong. And to be perfectly honest, there are a couple of Chinese restaurants I’ve been to that make fried rice that taste even better than this recipe. But nobody’s perfect, and I do have to say that I’m pleased with how it came out for my first time….er, maybe my second. Technically.

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See, technically my first attempt didn’t turn out so well. I maaaaaaay have ruined the first batch of Jasmine rice that I made. The rice is supposed to be one day old, so I made the Jasmine rice the night before I wanted to make the fried rice. It was really late at night and I was in a hurry to get to bed, so long story short, I don’t think I let it cook long enough. There was too much moisture still in the rice by the next day so the grains stuck together. Have you ever tried to ‘stir-fry’ gummy rice? It doesn’t work very well. And turns out, it tastes pretty bad too.

As rotten luck would have it, that was all the fresh Jasmine rice I had. All that was left in my pantry was Minute rice that you steam in water in the microwave. So I was forced to call in the cavalry on this one, folks. It’s still rice, it just didn’t need that long to cook. You won’t hold it against me, will you? I mean, it turned out into a pretty yummy dish. And now, you guys know that this dish can me made with Minute Rice and still turn out pretty awesome. It’s all apart of Cooking is My Sport Quality Control, I swear.

I’ll be bringing this dish to this week’s Fiesta Friday #39, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Suzanne @apuginthekitchen and Sue @Birgerbird, See you there!

 

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Yangzhou Fried Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Ching-He Hunag

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 ounces cooked Chinese pork (char siu) or ham, cut in 1/4-inch dice
  • 3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 cups cooked jasmine rice, a day old
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 to 2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal, for garnish

Directions

1. For the fried rice: Heat a wok over high heat and add 1 tablespoon peanut oil. Add the eggs and scramble, then set aside on a plate.

2. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil to the wok. Add the ginger and stir-fry for less than 1 minute. Then add the carrots and stir-fry for 1 minute more.

3. Add the pork, and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the peas and cooked rice and toss together. Add the cooked egg back into the wok.

4. Season the mixture with the light soy sauce, salt and pepper. At the very end add the sesame oil, if using. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with green onions and serve immediately.

Dothraki Flat Bread

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Game of Thrones Series Week #6

Even though there was no new Game of Thrones shown last week, I still wanted to post a new recipe today for the series we’ve got going on for it now. I’m having that much fun with this whole making themed food thing. It kinda makes me sad that the season will be over soon…

When I first picked this recipe out, I was a little worried about writing the post because I wouldn’t have an episode to recap and review. I didn’t know what the heck I would be talking to you guys about if I couldn’t be talking about the previous week’s episode. I thought that I wouldn’t have something interesting to talk about.

And then, I made the flatbread. And guys, do I have a story for you.

The official, published title of this post is “Dothraki Flatbread”, but for the sake of the story that’s about to come, I’m gonna go ahead and add a little subtext to that:

“Dothraki Flatbread (And That One Time When Jess Set Her Oven on Fire)”

Yep, you read that right. While making this flatbread, my oven literally caught on fire. Twice.

Curious to hear what happened? Just keep reading.

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I decided to make flat bread for a couple of reasons: first of all, I friggin love the stuff. Chewier and fluffier than traditional pita bread, is flat bread is cooked over very high heat until it puffs up and browns on either side. Then it’s brushed with melted butter and herbs and served warm. I’ve wanted to make some of my own for a while (just to see if I could), and as I was pondering this, it occurred to me that it would be a recipe that I could work into my GoT series. Although Khal Drogo and the Dothraki are far behind Daenerys by now in the television series, I didn’t see any reason why I could include a recipe in my blog series that was dedicated to them. Flat bread’s (or by it’s traditional name, naan) origins are in Asian and Indian cuisines, and I can’t help but think that in George R. R. Martin’s imaginary world, the Dothraki are meant to represent an ‘Asian’/”Ethnic’ culture. I could get into another conversation about that, but instead. I’ll just stay on topic with the story of what happened with the flat bread.

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Okay, so when I was researching cooking techniques and methods of making flat bread, I saw that there were three ways of doing this: making it over a grill, frying it on a stove top, and baking it on a pizza stone in the oven. I’m a lousy griller, so the first option was automatically out. In order to choose between the final two options, I read through some past reviews of other cooks that had made it themselves at home to see what results it yielded for them. Here’s the thing, guys: almost every single review I read (seriously, just about every one) said that frying the flat bread over the stove would make your kitchen/house VERY smoky and set off all your smoke alarms and would take forever to clear out. (The skillet needs to be very VERY hot in order to cook the bread properly) On the other hand, everyone that baked their flat bread in the oven on a baking/pizza stone (again at a very high heat, like 500 degrees hot) said that it resulted in little to no smoke at all, and everything turned out easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

What would you all have done if you were in my situation and shoes?

Naturally, you would’ve chosen the baking stone option, right? I mean, what reason would you have to doubt that anything would happen to go wrong for you, when it had gone so well for everyone else? My thoughts exactly.

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In retrospect, there are a few things that I probably would’ve done differently. First, I should have put a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Second, I probably shouldn’t have brushed the melted butter over the bread while it was still in the oven on the pizza stone. I suspect that it could have avoided all the drama that ensued. Unfortunately, I didn’t do either of those things, so here’s what happened:

I’ve never turned my oven up that high before besides when using the broiler. I wasn’t prepared for how hot it got. It got really, really, REALLY hot. When I placed the naan on the pizza stone for it’s cooking on the first side, it began to smoke a little from how hot it was. That concerned me a little, but I still let it go on doing it’s thing. The real problems started when I brushed the butter on the bread and flipped it. The butter began sliding off the bread and onto the pizza stone…then off and onto the scalding hot bottom of the oven. Butter and intense heat makes grease spots. Really, really, really, REALLY hot grease spots make the “f word”.

You see where I’m going with this?

So yeah, I ignited a fire in my oven. Well, maybe not a fire. More like a big flame. A brief one. It flashed for like two seconds. I screamed. It disappeared. It flared again. I screamed again. Then when it went out, I immediately turned off the oven, removed the pizza stone and put it into the sink with the half-cooked naan still on it. Then I went and sat my shaking, sweaty, frustrated self in a chair for a while to try and calm down.

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Fast forward about 20 minutes later. Me and my older sister have opened up the sliding glass door by the kitchen all the way and have recruited every fan in the house in the effort of blowing out the smoke that has accumulated as a result of my flat bread fiasco. I’m in the middle of a mini-meltdown, ready to throw up my hands and write myself off as the worst cook ever, repeatedly and frantically apologizing and shaking my head (the way I always do when I mess something up in the kitchen). My older sister is patiently and confidently assuring me that it’s not that big a deal, I’m not a bad cook, and the smoke really is going to be all cleared out of the room in about an hour. She also suggests that I try just finishing the rest of the flat breads on a skillet over the stove.

Well, I did. And guess what? Little to no smoke at all. It took about ten minutes, flat. How bout them apples? Don’t ever let me find the people from the reviews who said that baking it on a pizza stone was easier. It will not end well for them.

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Like I said, the fire probably could have been prevented if I had taken the extra precautions with the sheet pan and holding off on brushing on the butter. All the same, I’m still going to be making my flat bread on a skillet on the stove from here on out. Fires are for losers, and the clean up in the aftermath is no fun.

I’m in no hurry to repeat the process of scrubbing out my oven with cleaner, rinsing it out with vinegar & lemon juice, THEN baking lemon and orange peels in it for over and hour just to get rid of the fumes.

So yeah: how was you guys weekend? Anything more eventful than a fire?

Game of Thrones Series

Week 1: Pigeon {Chicken} Pies

Week 2: Winterfell Brown Bread

Week 3: Southron Spinach & Plum Salad

Week 4: Baratheon Smothered Pork Chops & Apple Gravy

Week 5: Lemon Cakes

Week 6: Dothraki Flat Bread

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Dothraki Flatbread

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Recipe Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  •  1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground basil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

 Directions

1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy.

2. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth.

3. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.

4. Punch down dough. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, minced garlic and basil. Set aside.

6. During the second rising, heat a cast iron skillet or regular, non stick pan over high heat. Make sure you have a lid large enough to fit the  skillet.

7. Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and pick up one of your flatbreads, flip-flopping it from one hand to the other to lightly dampen it. Gently lay it in the skillet and set your timer for 1 minute. The dough should start to bubble. Brush top of flatbread with melted butter.

8. After about 1 minute, flip the flatbread. It should be blistered and somewhat blackened. Brush cooked side with the butter, then cover the skillet with the lid and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

9. Place the flatbread in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the flatbreads.

 

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Chicken Stir-Fry

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Any Game of Thrones Fans out there?

I  certainly hope so. It’s an AWESOME show. If you haven’t seen it, then you’re just really missing out. Whenever I’m asked by non GoT fans what it’s about, I’d say that it’s basically a medieval series with dragons and a whole lot of drama. A bunch of people are trying to sit on a throne of a kingdom and the schemes and plans by which they all attempt to do so really resembles a dark kind of game. That’s a really watered down version of a summary of course, but I would’t want to give anything away to any of you out there that still may be on the fence of checking it out or not.

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Just in case you needed that extra push to getting around to it, then here it is, direct from me to you: watch the show. The hype is not just a hype. It’s real. It’s justified. Jess from Cooking is My Sport said so.

So what does GoT have to do with this post? Well, not much to be honest. The truth is that last night when I was watching the long-awaited season 4 premiere, it suddenly occurred to me that I had wanted to do a GoT themed recipe series for the blog, ideally the week before the return of the show. Obviously, that’s not gonna happen anymore. I lost track of time. I forgot about that goal. Whatever. However, that’s not necessarily going to completely kill the idea. I think I still want to try to do a GoT-week on CIMS. Maybe I’ll make it so that I post a recipe dedicated to the show every Sunday until the season finale. Ambitious, maybe, but I think still pretty cool The next step will just be to get together a recipe collection. You guys can feel free to give me suggestions as to what foods you’d like to see that remind you of the show, I’m feeling pretty open to anything.

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Anyway, back to today’s post. I was at the store grocery shopping with my mom and she said she wanted stir-fry for dinner.  It’s not too difficult a request, so I gave it a go. Stir-fry’s really one of those easy dishes that don’t take a huge amount of effort, but yield results that are out of this world, provided you can get your seasonings right. (Of course,) I went with chicken as the protein and threw in some other stuff as well.  paired it with these DELICIOUS Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes, and it made an awesome meal.

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I’ve noticed that I keep posting a lot of Asian-themed cuisine on the blog. That’s kinda interesting to me, as Asian isn’t even my favorite ethnic cuisine- (it’s Lebanese/Middle-Eastern just in case you were curious). However, I’ll run with it. I think the results are coming out okay, don’t you?

Don’t forget to leave me your GoT menu suggestions: the more I think about it, the more determined I am to do this. I think it’ll be really fun 😉

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Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe Adapted from Pat and Gina Neely

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION 

Ingredients

  •  2 tablespoons soy sauce
  •  1 tablespoon orange juice
  •  1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  •  1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  •  1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  •  1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  •  1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if desired
  •  1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus more as needed
  •  1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  •  2 tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  •  4 cloves garlic, minced
  •  4 green onions, sliced
  • 4 cups broccoli florets, pre-cooked

Directions

  1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, light brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, cornstarch, sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Reserve.
  2.  Set a wok over medium-high heat and coat with 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil. When the oil shimmers, add about half of the chicken thigh pieces. Stir-fry until the chicken is fully cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining chicken thighs.
  3.  Add enough peanut oil to the hot wok to coat the bottom. Add the ginger, garlic and green onions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4.  Add the chicken back to the wok along with the broccoli florets and stir to warm through.
  5. Pour in the reserved sauce and stir until the sauce is thickened and bubbly, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with rice.

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